I had a strange realization the other day, one that shouldn’t exactly be a realization. As of December 16, I’m no longer going to be a college student.
It’s all I’ve done for the last five years. I’m having an existential crisis. Am I entitled to that?
I’m preparing to go visit Bill in a few days. In fact, I will be seeing him in just over 48 hours. I haven’t seen him since September. It’s been over two months since I’ve kissed him, hugged him, touched him, or woke up to him talking in his sleep. I’m flying into Oklahoma City around 10pm on Tuesday night. I’ve never gotten off an airplane to be greeted by a boyfriend. I’ve been trying to imagine the scene. I’m sure I’ll be tired since I’m working in the morning, and traveling by plane is oddly exhausting. However, if I don’t have a five year old kicking the back of my seat like my last flight, I’ll consider this one a success. I’ll exit the terminal and search for Bill, hauling my carry on bag and rolling suitcase and then I’ll see him and cry. Big gooey tears that are embarrassing but I won’t care because I’ll finally actually be seeing Bill in the flesh rather than on my computer screen and for the first time in months my tears will be on his shirt and not on my sleeve.
Because I’m not there yet, I’m wanting the next two days to pass by as quickly as possible. I’m becoming acutely aware of how swiftly time moves. I’ll be in Oklahoma for about a week, then after that, I’ll have just three weeks left as a college student. That means I will be cramming an enormous amount of work into three weeks. I have several books I need to read. While I’m doing this, I need to read critically so I can write a comparative paper for my African American Women Writers class – I’m thinking of comparing a Lorrie Moore story with one of Danielle Evans’s stories. Which two stories, I’m not sure. I read Moore’s Self Help a few months ago, and I’m not through Evans’s collection. I’m anticipating that by rereading Moore’s book and completing Evan’s collection, I’ll have a sudden epiphany and I’ll write a brilliant paper. I also need to write a paper about Pat Barker’s Regeneration, which as far as I can tell, 2/3 of the way through, has no plot. So far I’ve picked up a few things about a stuttering psychiatrist who has some homosexual tendencies and a few WWI soldiers getting day passes. It’s really a pretty boring book and because it’s near impossible to finish reading, I’m going to have a very difficult time writing about it. I also have to finish a draft of my seminar project – a piece of creative nonfiction that’s turning into a pretty personal endeavor – and then revise it until it’s wonderful.
While I have all of these books to read and also biology and anthropology to study, I decided to read another book. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. An editorial review on Amazon reads:
Even among authors, Jeffrey Eugenides possesses a rare talent for being able to inhabit his characters. In The Marriage Plot, his third novel and first in ten years (following the Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex), Eugenides describes a year or so in the lives of three college seniors at Brown in the early 80s. There is Madeleine, a self-described “incurable romantic” who is slightly embarrassed at being so normal. There is Leonard, a brilliant, temperamental student from the Pacific Northwest. And completing the triangle is Mitchell, a Religious Studies major from Eugenides’ own Detroit. What follows is a book delivered in sincere and genuine prose, tracing the end of the students’ college days and continuing into those first, tentative steps toward true adulthood. This is a thoughtful and at times disarming novel about life, love, and discovery, set during a time when so much of life seems filled with deep portent.
The “tracing the end of the students’ college days and continuing into those first, tentative steps toward true adulthood” bit was the thing that really sold me. I’ve been sort of obsessed with books like this lately. I want how-to texts to tell me how to be an adult, because I don’t really know what it’s like to not be a student. I’m no longer looking to books for escapism – I’m looking to them for comradery, even if the heroines of these fictions don’t figure it out. Lorrie Moore’s characters are usually women just on the verge of a breakdown, and the Madison-area college student in A Gate at the Stairs felt like a best friend on the pages. About thirty pages into The Marriage Plot, I’m beginning to wonder when Eugenides was able to notate my thoughts while I sat through my English classes. Consider such gems like:
She’d become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read. (pg 20, from the Kindle edition)
That left a large contingent of people majoring in English by default. Because they weren’t left-brained enough for science, because history was too dry, philosophy too difficult, geology too petroleum-oriented, and math too mathematical—because they weren’t musical, artistic, financially motivated, or really all that smart, these people were pursuing university degrees doing something no different from what they’d done in first grade: reading stories. English was what people who didn’t know what to major in majored in. (pg 21, from the Kindle edition)
But after three solid years of taking literature courses, Madeleine had nothing like a firm critical methodology to apply to what she read. Instead she had a fuzzy, unsystematic way of talking about books. It embarrassed her to hear the things people said in class. And the things she said. I felt that. It was interesting the way Proust. I liked the way Faulkner. (pg 24, from the Kindle edition)
I’m really hoping that Madeleine ends up figuring her life out so I can follow suit. However, since it’s a Eugenides novel, she’ll probably have a much deeper existential meltdown, then commit suicide or her whole family will die. Don’t worry though, it will be done in the most brilliant of fashions.
If I were really smart, I would save this and any other leisure reading material for December 17.